i wrote this post during this past winter (and since i have forgotten all about my blog for the past year, i never posted it :). knowing how far emery has come since then, i decided to post it so i remember just how amazing her recent speech therapy breakthrough has been. (update below)
speech and clefts.
it's very unpredictable land. uncharted for each kid. no one can tell you in advance what challenges your CL/CP sweetie will have. some kids pickup sounds and put them together with just a little help from speech therapy. some have holes that continue to break open in their palate. some have no holes, but still can't make sounds because of lip scarring or slow tongue movement. still others struggle and no one knows why. in my experience, it's the biggest challenge a CL/CP child faces...the land of speech.
the past few years have been filled with years of repeating every single sound and phrase. long days of back and forth, deciphering each little word. years of emery's hard work sitting in countless speech therapy sessions talking and talking and talking. trying the same, frustrating sounds over and over and over. years seeing her extreme frustration when we just don't understand, no matter how hard we try.
i never thought much about how amazing it is when a young child speaks. a native speaker naturally learns the sounds he or she will need during the first year of life. they hear them. practice them. and get lots of time to make mistakes before anyone expects anything of them.
my 3 year old is thrown into a preschool classroom of 11 kids who chatter about like 4th graders. they can talk up and down, sideways and backwards. words are the easy part. they struggle with sitting still and obeying the rules and running out of line. my daughter has no trouble with rules. she uses scissors like a 4th grader and loves the predictability and exactness a classroom holds. but when my child says "i yent to yak and yaw a net of baba bads" ("i went to the park and saw a nest of baby birds") they have no idea what she's talking about. and good gracious, if i hadn't been at the park with her and saw the baby birds with my own eyes, i wouldn't have known what she was talking about either.
she withdraws from talking to people outside our family. i can honestly say she has no friends her own age. it burdens me.
i could pull her out of preschool and out of situations that challenge her, but i know she needs the opportunity to struggle, so, in turn, she has the opportunity to succeed. if a classroom of 11 preschoolers is a challenge, then by golly, i know she will conquer it.
it takes a vast amount of context. time spent together, deciphering piece by piece, and enough repetition to make my brain swirl. the slightest moment of distraction on my part leaves me unsure of what she means when she says "i yunt a pupo york not a yeen yun!!" ("i want a purple fork not a green one!!"). and let me tell you, if i don't guess correctly during the first few tries, we have meltdowns of insane proportion. the kind that make the neighbors wonder what on earth is going on in our house.
the funniest thing is, i like her language. we talk in her code sometimes without even realizing it. my brain forgets it isn't typical little kid talk. a friend was over with her little kids a few weeks ago, and i said to her 3 year old, "do you want to yit on my yap?" she looked strangely at me, until i realized she had no idea "yit" meant "sit" and "yap" meant "lap." i chuckled as emery (from across the room) piped up with "mama, i yit on your yap!!" and ran right over and hopped up.
and here we are today.
July 8th, 2014, 4 years old and approaching 3 years home.
sometime during the spring, things clicked. sparks flew and her words became legible. i don't really remember when exactly it happened, but she came home from school sometime this spring, hopped in the car and said:
"mama, my friend Noah asked me why i had a bandaid on my finger. and i told him i had a boo-boo. and we laughed and laughed! it was sooo funny!" she said, throwing her head back in laughter.
i nearly fell over. she had never remembered a friend's name, had never told me an entire sequence of events when i had no context to guess from. it was her first story and i understood every word. it was a beautiful triumph.
she can express feelings, thoughts, dreams, complicated phrases that she was never taught...because she makes up on her own. she runs into preschool and tells her teacher, "i went camping with my family for by birthday! and i ate cheese balls!!" and her teacher understands. kids standing close by understand and pipe in about the time they went camping or express their own love of cheeze coated goodies. its nearly enough to make my cry each day when i watch her interact with people outside of our family.
i'm not saying every sound is perfectly clear. heck, nearly every word still contains some sort of omission or slightly skewed sound, but the improvement...the ability to understand exactly what she means...that's the triumph. people who don't know her vernacular know what she is saying. it's amazing and freeing for all of us.
her hard work has also given her confidence level a giant leap. she no longer cries when i drop her off at school or in the preschool class at church. she chats with neighborhood kids and trades pokemon cards and invites them in to play in her room. she can also tattle on her brothers and tell them exactly just how frustrated she is with them :) it's a whole new world for her, and knowing where we started it's nearly unbelievable.